Category Archives: 10 Chapter Ten

Eden 10:3

SophiaSophia was quiet and gracious throughout a good meal accompanied by even better wine. Now, unaccustomed as she was to drinking much in the way of alcohol, she was feeling warm and loose as she picked among the nuts and cheese remaining on the table.

“Miss Stephens,” she ventured, “why do you not take a public stand on the suffrage issue? Do you not agree that women ought to be given votes?”

Eleanor raised an eyebrow. “It’s obvious to me that women ought to be given votes. Why should I be touting so in public, do you think?”

votesforwomen

“You are so well known. I wonder you don’t use your influence for an important cause,” Sophia continued.

Eleanor looked at Eden who was looking at Sophia with some wonder. She turned back to Sophia and smiled. “I doubt I have influence with anyone who doesn’t already agree with me. In fact, my opinion might well fuel the fire of those who disagree. I’m not really a very good example of the sort of woman the opposition holds as its ideal, am I?”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Sophia admitted.

“Perhaps not,” Eleanor said, “but I gather you are a thoughtful girl as a rule. Eden tells me you had some criticism of Mr. Ellis’s book, for example.”

Sophia looked at Eden. But Eden looked carefully instead at the discarded crust of a dinner roll the kitchen maid had missed in clearing her place.

Sophia folded her napkin, placed it on the table before her and decided to be honest. “I do question the scientific value of conclusions drawn so much on the evidence of anonymous hearsay,” she told Eleanor.

“Well, perhaps not entirely anonymous. His wife is a acquaintance of mine in London. I believe some of the “hearsay” comes from her.”

“Oh.” Sophia blushed.

“Did you not find any of the cases familiar to you, Eden?” Eleanor turned to her young friend.

“I don’t know,” Eden said. She wished Eleanor had not brought the subject up. In fact, she knew, in spite of her demur, exactly what Eleanor meant by ‘familiar,’ but she was in awe of Sophia’s willingness to argue with Mr. Ellis on the quality of his science and she did not wish to appear to take his side against her.

Eleanor saw Eden’s discomfort. “Never mind, darling,” she said, rising from the table. “Do you think Miss Abington might be persuaded to play for us?” then to Sophia, “My piano is sadly underused. I almost never play myself these days.”

“I’m terribly out of practice,” Sophia said, “but I’m happy to try.” And she followed Eden and Eleanor to the music room.

Whatever Sophia had meant by “out of practice,” she did not hesitate to take a seat at the piano stool, and Eleanor and Eden had barely sat down when the very Chopin ballade that had inspired Eden’s tears in the music hall began to fill the room

Sophia’s little audience of two sat, both stunned, for somewhat different reasons, by her virtuosity. When the ballade was finished, she stopped and turned about to face her listeners.

Eleanor clapped and rose from her chair. “You didn’t tell me your friend was so musically gifted, Eden. To say she plays the piano is something of an understatement.” Then to Sophia, “What a shame you aren’t able to devote more time to your playing. Are you quite sure the field of medicine needs you more than the concert hall?”

Sophia shook her head slightly. “I don’t know that I’m needed by either, I only feel that I can do more good for the world as a doctor.” But she gave the piano a wistful look as she added, “it’s a fine instrument, though. It’s a shame it doesn’t get more use.”

Eleanor smiled. “Perhaps you could remedy that. It would be my pleasure if you would call whenever you like and play for me—or for Eden, if I’m not in town. The staff knows that the house is always open to her.”

“That’s so kind of you, Miss Stephens,” Sophia said, blushing a little.

“Not at all, darling—and please, you must call me Eleanor, just as Eden does,” she insisted.

“Eleanor,” Sophia said with a little smile.

Eden gave her hand to Sophia and drew her up from the piano stool. For a fleeting moment, they stood before Eleanor, hand in hand and she could see the unquakerlike effects of Chopin on their plainly enamored faces.

Eden 10:2

Eden thought she knew Boston. She was certain that Gertrude had shown her all the wonders of the city. But now, Sophia, on the rare days she could be persuaded to leave her books, began to show Eden a city she had not yet seen.

Sophia’s Boston was a city of suffrage lectures and temperance meetings and demonstrations for better housing for the poor. It was filled with Quaker patriarchs with long white beards and gentle eyes that nonetheless flashed when the subject of American imperialism was raised. With Sophia as her guide, Eden discovered a circle of stern-looking, but brilliant-minded women who cared much more for what Eden was reading than for what she was wearing.

hygeiaOne cold afternoon, Sophia brought Eden to a quiet graveyard, took her hand and led her to a beautiful stone woman draped in classical robes, holding a bronze staff and standing atop a dais, raised above most of the other markers in the cemetery.

“It’s beautiful,” Eden gasped. “Who made it?”

“Made it…?” Sophia looked from the words on the grave marker to the statue atop it, where Eden gazed. She smiled. “I don’t know…it’s Harriet Hunt’s grave. She was the first woman doctor in Boston.”

“Oh.” But Eden’s attention still on the stone figure.

“I don’t really know what the statue is,” Sophia said. “It isn’t Dr. Hunt. And it’s not an angel…”

“It’s Hygeia,” Eden said. “The goddess of health. It’s an excellent example of neoclassicism. See how the robes hang away from the body here? See the detail of the feet? Whoever made it was a gifted sculptor.”

Sophia looked. “You’re right. It’s beautiful. I’ve come here to see Dr. Hunt since I was fourteen, and decided to go to medical school. But I never really gave the statue any thought before today.”

“I’ve been reading a lot this term about Greek architecture and sculpture. I see it everywhere lately.” Eden bit her lip. Maybe this was just another thing a Boston girl would take for granted.

But Sophia took Eden’s hand and smiled.  “Tell me what else you see,” she said.

The cemetery was filled with beautiful statuary.  They spent the rest of the afternoon admiring it, Eden telling what she had learned about the design of the memorials, Sophia telling what she knew of the notable Bostonians buried beneath them.

***

“Who is E. W. Stephens? Not the writer?” Sophia asked Eden one afternoon.  They were studying in Eden’s room, Sophia reading in the wingback chair and Eden in her shirt sleeves, lying propped on one arm, in the floor before a low fire in the hearth.

“You mean Eleanor?” Eden looked up. Sophia was holding a book, reading the plate inside the cover. It was one that Eleanor had leant Eden recently. There was a pile of such books on the edge of Eden’s desk most of the time. However she insisted that her education at Radcliffe was quite complete, Eleanor was frequently doubtful of this and kept Eden supplied in extracurricular material from her own library.

“E. is for Eleanor?” Sophia pursued.

“Yes. And yes, she is a writer, have you heard of her?” Eden asked.

“Of course, I have!” Sophia insisted. “She’s famous. Didn’t you know?

“I suppose,” Eden admitted. But she didn’t think of it much anymore. Her early fearful awe of Eleanor had settled into easy affection. She occasionally found herself shocked, still, by Eleanor’s wealth or breadth of knowledge, but since they had traveled together she was no longer awkwardly self-conscious around the older woman. Eleanor had offered Eden sincere friendship and Eden had come to believe in it.

But now she remembered that Eleanor had told her to invite Sophia to dinner.  “She wants to meet you, in fact. I’m supposed to dine with her on Thursday. I will ask her if I might bring you along.”

Sophia shook her head in wonder.  “You are quite an intimate friend of hers, then?”

Eden shrugged a bit, beginning to feel self-conscious.

“Who else do you dine with?  The king of Spain?”  Eden knew Sophia was teasing.  But she sounded pleased. Eden grinned and they went back to reading.

Eden 10:1

Eden“Sophia says these books could not be referring to me,” Eden said, cutting into the lamb chop on the table before her.

“Sophia says?—wait, books?” Eleanor put her glass down and gave Eden a curious look.

“She read the German one too—some of it—in the library. She couldn’t take it out.” Eden finished the wine in her own glass and Eleanor’s kitchen maid stepped to the table to refill it.

“She read Dr. Krafft-Ebbing in the German?” Eleanor asked, incredulous.

“And Latin, she said,” Eden added.

“And Latin.” Eleanor raised an eyebrow. “And Dr. Sophia has concluded that the books are rubbish then?”

“She didn’t say that! She says that a doctor who has never met me could not diagnose me as defective. She says I’m just as I ought to be. She says…” Eden stopped, because what Sophia had said after that would undoubtedly damage Eleanor’s opinion of Miss Abington’s objectivity.

What Eden didn’t know was that Eleanor had already dismissed the possibility that Sophia Abington was remotely objective on the topic of Eden Smith.

Eleanor“Never mind, believe what you like. But I think you had better bring Miss Abington to dinner soon, had you not?”

Eden looked earnestly at her potatoes, but couldn’t prevent a smile from crossing her face, “I guess maybe so,” she admitted.